On Monday, July 9th, 2018 - three years ago, I walked into work fresh off a much-needed vacation. I had gone to California to witness the wedding of two amazing friends and also took the time to unplug bit at my family cabin in Canada (like really unplug – no electricity, some running water). I had landed back in Hong Kong on the red-eye, picked up my dog from the sitter, got home quickly to drop off my bags and hastily changed into work clothes and headed to the office. Before leaving for vacation, I had completed all my projects and so was anxiously awaiting a new assignment. I was curious what projects had come in while I was away and was ready to get started. So, it sort of made sense to get a succinct email from my boss at 9 am asking for us to meet at 5 pm to chat. I spent the day catching up on things I’d missed and was looking forward to my meeting.
At 5 pm, I was laid off.
Made ‘redundant’, he said.
It had taken me a year and a half to get that job. I had left my husband and dogs in Switzerland to take that job. It meant spending two years apart from my husband. But, I had wanted it so bad and was so excited to get it. It was a career move that I knew I needed and was genuinely so excited by the opportunity. However, shortly after arriving in Hong Kong, the company was bought out and what had been an exciting opportunity to join a boutique consulting company run by great people who poured their hearts into their work became just another acquisition in a long line of little companies being picked up by a private equity group. The men (yup - all male, pale and stale) who took over made a terrible first impression and many of my colleagues and I were disappointed. Many had started looking for new jobs the day after the announcement of the merger. I had spent a lot of time soul-searching on my vacation and had decided that maybe it was time to start looking too, perhaps, after my vacation. It never occurred to that me that I’d get laid-off and have no choice but to start looking immediately.
The next two days were filled with a sobering combination of tears and scouring the job market in Hong Kong. By the end of Wednesday, I knew one thing for sure; I didn’t want to be in the same position again.
On Friday, I started building a website and submitted an application for a business license. Why not work for myself? I’d gotten almost all the training I’d needed from my last job and there was no non-compete clause in my contract. I didn’t have a large network, but I knew where to go and who to speak with to build one.
And so, SouthPaw Sustainability Consulting was born.
I knew it would be slow to get my business going, so in September I reached out to the Director of The Purpose Business to see if they needed another helping hand. It was a perfect fit to be able to work both on my own and with a network of other sustainability advisors and consultants. By November I landed my first small project and by January 2019 I was working close to full-time again.
Three years ago today was a really difficult day. Losing a job that I wanted so much and moved to the other side of the planet to get was not easy. But, I’m glad I did. What makes this industry exceptional is the collective recognition of ‘doing business for good’ and a sense of community amongst sustainability practitioners. I have loved working in this niche field because I am passionate about improving how we treat the environment, other animals and ourselves and believe that this is best achieved through a combination of private sector engagement and revamping personal approaches to global challenges. And I love being my own boss.
So, Happy 3rd Birthday to SouthPaw.
Here’s to many more.